You’d think all the dating trends that could possibly exist would do by now: ghosting, benching, haunting, breadcrumbing, negging, the list is endless. You may have even found yourself in a situationship. And now there’s a new(ish) one, yay for another way to be treated like a mug by people you date! Thanks to technology and the beauty/curse of social media, it’s so much easier for our former dates to find us and come crawling back again. Enter: zombieing.
Here’s your expert guide to zombieing, from what it is and how to spot the signs, to how to handle it when it (inevitably) happens. Plus, Cosmopolitan UK editors share their real zombieing experiences because I did a quick straw poll in the office and it turns out EVERYONE has been zombied.
What is zombieing?
“Do you remember ghosting? Yup, that pesky dating trend which meant non-committal lovers felt it was OK to disappear off the grid after a few dates and stop replying to messages? Well we’ve now gone one better with the dating trend ‘zombieing’,” says Hayley Quinn, dating expert for Match. “Zombieing is when those ghosts come back from the dead and reappear without explanation by sliding you a DM or a cheeky WhatsApp.”
What to do if you’re being zombied
“Being on the receiving end of zombieing can feel confusing – how could they disappear so suddenly and then just send an out of the blue ‘hey’ message?” Hayley says. “Needless to say people who zombie aren’t showing any accountability towards your dating experience; instead they’re just reacting to the whims of when it suits them to have you in their life.”
So what can you do to ward off these evil spirits? “If you’re looking for a committed relationship, or just one with respect, don’t get sucked into this toxic cycle,” she says. “First of all remind yourself that people who are relationship worthy DO NOT leave you confused, and DO behave in a way that is consistent.”
Hayley also says you might need to focus less on getting any answers from them about their behaviour. “Don’t be drawn into asking for an explanation, you’re unlikely to get a good one, and this may lure you back in. Instead swipe delete or archive on their message and ignore this lame attempt to get your attention!”
Cosmopolitan UK editors who’ve been zombied
“In hindsight he was a massive knob” – says Shane*
“I was dating someone for a month and it was all quite intense and a whirlwind. On our second date (we’d been speaking for three weeks non stop before meeting), I was going to go back to his and out of the blue he said, ‘I need to go home… on my own’. It turned out he was getting back with his ex girlfriend (which I didn’t know until later) and he very abruptly stop dating me.
“Six months later he started messaging me about his holidays. Then he sent me a screenshot of my own Bumble profile. By this point I was seeing someone else and wasn’t using the app. He texted, ‘Am I going to get blanked on Bumble? Burn.’ And asked me out for a drink. When I told him I was dating someone else, he replied, ‘It was worth asking.’ He was such a dickhead… a massive knob in hindsight. But I did fancy him a lot and was gutted when it didn’t go anywhere. Maybe I was a bit flattered he came crawling back. I like to think if I had been single I wouldn’t have gone there, but who knows…”
“Never have I felt so confused and rejected” says Kristen*
“I was 26 the first time I was zombied and it sounds so dramatic, but it destroyed my confidence for about three years. I’d come fresh out of a seven-year relationship, moved to London and met this drummer guy (I know, I know) and it was literal fireworks for three weeks. Then he disappeared and never have I felt so confused and rejected. I hadn’t experienced ghosting before. My self-respect was in tatters. He eventually came back asking what I was up to. This cat and mouse game eventually went on for about FIVE years until I ended it once and for all. What a bloody waste of time.
“Last year (seven years after we first met) he even turned up at Reading Festival, telling me he loved me and tried to come back to my hotel. I think it’s laughable now, and am constantly telling my friends to run for the hills at the first sign of it, because it means the person is either a bag of issues, in a mess, or is just a total wasteman who will never treat you with the respect you deserve.”
“What we had was ‘casual’, but zombieing me was still rude!” – says Samira*
“We were casually dating for eight months before he ghosted me and turned all read receipts off. He’d previously done mini ghosting acts where he’d say he left his phone in an Uber or in the office over the weekend, but he’d always come back. But this time, zilch. After a few weeks I called him on a friend’s phone. We had it out a bit and he said he felt bad about ghosting, but proceeded to end the call halfway through my sentence.
“That was towards the end of November, then on New Year’s Eve I posted a Snapchat story and, like a zombie returning from the dead, he replied instantly asking what I was doing and telling me to go to his place. I didn’t, but then two days later he texted again and NGL, I gave in. I think because it was ‘casual’ he thought he could get away with just ghosting and zombieing willy nilly but, newsflash, it’s still rude!”
“He’d ghost and then zombie again for an entire year” – says Cara*
“I’d been on four dates with Chris* over the course of six weeks, with non-stop WhatsApping in between. To me at least, it all felt pretty intense. A day after we finally slept together (I’d been holding out because I liked him and didn’t want to be seen as a casual thing *the irony*), the texting stopped. The lad just completely vanished. After an all-night, five times in one go, sex sesh! EH??
“A couple of months later he reappeared saying, ‘My phone broke and I’ve just rediscovered my contacts on my laptop’. I – being a MASSIVE IDIOT – had a go at him… then agreed to meet up again, but before that happened he… ghosted me again. I tracked him down on Facebook and and he said his new phone had got water damage (I can’t even).
“I wish I could say we never spoke again but this continued for a year in total, with meeting up and ghosting (and zombieing) happening several times in between. This is the final message he sent me a few weeks after that blow up: “Very little closure by the way. Can’t ghost like that.”
“It wasn’t my first time at the ghosting rodeo” – says Ellen*
“About two months ago, I went on what can only be described as an excellent first date with Tom*, an architect I met on Happn. We met in a pub and spoke for hours. We went through two bottles of red wine and a couple of pizzas. We had a kiss as the bus stop, and messaged as soon as we both got home. Good vital signs right? Wrong.
“We arranged our second date for later that week. He cancelled last minute citing a ‘virus’ and chronic headache. He even sent me a picture of himself in his doctor’s surgery. Then, he dropped off a communication cliff. It wasn’t my first time at the ghosting rodeo so after a stab at trying to get a response, I left it.
“A month later, he reappeared. ‘Hey! How are you? Sorry about the lack of contact. That virus was nasty. Fancy that second date?’ HOORAH THE DATING GODS HAVE SMILED UPON ME, I thought. The second date happened four days after that message. Again, it was perfect, with kissing, in-jokes, and more kissing. The next morning we ate peanut butter bagels and drank tea. He didn’t rush me out. We just… got on. A few messages were exchanged that week and then… nothing. I’m fully expecting him to reappear again at some point in time.”
*Names have been changed to protect our editors from future zombies
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